We did an episode on Kit where we got to know her a little bit as a writer. Now we will talk to Cate and see what she’s all about. Below is a cleaned up script. It’s not exact, but it’s got all the basics! If you want to listen to the podcast episode instead, you can click play in the podcast box above. Interested in learning more about Cate? Read her post about The Storyteller’s Daughter. Or check out her writing stats.
Kit: Welcome to the Writer at Work Podcast. I’m your co-host, Kit Boyer. In our last episode, I was interviewed for our listeners to get to know. Today I will be interviewing Miss Catherine MH. How are you doing today, Cate?
Cate: I’m doing good, although it is freezing here in my neck of the woods. I’m like bundled up in layers and layers, there’s plastic on my windows.
What is your age and where are you in the world?
I’m on a yoga ball in a room. No. Haha. I’m 28 years old and I live in Upstate New York. I really mean Upstate. I’m originally from the City, so everything seems like Upstate from there, but I’m 20 minutes from the Canadian border. I am UP Upstate New York.
What is your genre of writing?
I have two that I stick to most consistently. If I’m dabbling, I write anything. But my two most consistent, I have a Steampunk and I have a science-fiction mostly focusing on space opera.
Ok. Uh, what is space opera?
Oh. I’m sorry. So I didn’t know this until I started researching what genre I really do write in. So a space opera is where most of the story takes place in space. It’s grandiose. It’s usually on a space ship. So like Battlestar Galactica is considered a space opera. Star Wars is close to space opera, it kind of fits into that genre and the next one over, I can’t remember what it is right now. And it’s because they’re on planet a lot, but it borders space opera. Especially with the action and heroics. Star Trek is a space opera. It’s usually in space, and it can have a lot of drama. So a space opera is usually long epic tales, and maybe that’s where the opera part comes in.
What do you do now for a living?
Originally I worked multiple, multiple jobs, and then the pandemic hit and now I work two jobs. So I work for the YMCA and I deal with school-aged elementary kids. I watch them on whatever days they’re not in school. And I’ll sit with them for anywhere from 7-9 hours. It just depends on when the parents drop them off and pick them up. So that is what I mostly do. And then I also work at a wonderful little cafe that is perfectly titled Chapter One Coffee and Tea. The owner also does writing, which is why she named it that. She screenwrites and is very supportive of the writing community up here. We host occasional workshops there, she does lesson plans, she’ll teach people writing. It’s a really cool little cafe that is awesomely named.
What made you want to be a writer in the first place?
There are three answers to this question. First, it was one of those cutesy little things where people were like, “Oh, you can tell stories, that’s really cute.” Because I would recite a story or movie to people, usually it was Shirley Temple. And they would say, “You should tell stories or do acting.” So that was always there. Another big one that had influenced me was that my older sister had this ancient laptop that was so thick and heavy. I remember her writing a weird little story on the computer, and I read it even though she didn’t want me to. She never finished the story, she only wrote like ten pages, but I remember adding to the story. She had a picture of a squirrel that had a tail that was nine feet long. And out of the whole story, to this day, that is the thing I still remember. So that really stuck with me in the idea that people make up stuff and it’s cool to make up stuff. And then I met this person on a school bus who handed me this book and-
She sounds great!!
Haha. Yeah! She does. And yes, you are part of my big reason as to when I decided to write books. Because when you handed me that book, I was like, “Tch, I could do this.” Not that the author was bad, but that I thought I could do this, too. And then you actually let me word vomit at you and most people get annoyed after like ten minutes. So, that’s where the “I can do this, I can be a writer” came from. Those three big things.
A question from our childhood. Why did you love Bobby Pendragon so, so, so much?
Oh, my god. Ok. So, honestly, because I thought he was cute. But he was also a really cool character in the book! Oh, my god. I used to fangirl at you so hard. The first book really was good. The second book was, eh. The third book was amazing. The fourth book started getting weird. The fifth one was weirder. By the sixth one, I was like, “Hmm, he did kiss that other person. I’m kinda done.” There are ten books in the series, but I just think I grew out of it. But also the cover picture, he was a cutie on it, ok? Hey, I’ve got a thing for brown eyes and brown hair.
Alright, so then let’s get into what authors do you admire?
Ok. So, J.R.R. Tolkien is a definite. My older sister read me The Lord of the Rings series when I was little. It’s one of my fondest memories of spending time with my sister. I was so persistent, and she knew I wasn’t at the level to read it myself, so she actually read me the books. So Tolkien. Absolutely love him. He and I share meyers-briggs personality types. I’m also an epic writer like him where I just keep writing and don’t shut up. A small book doesn’t exist. And Tamora Pierce is another author I really admire. Her female characters are so broad. They can be extremely feminine, or strong characters. Beka Cooper is a great one. Then she’s got this female knight that is super buff, and you wouldn’t think she has such a girly personality, but when she’s not in her armor, she’s like, “give me the dresses and the jewelry.” And it’s really cool that she can combine them. Pierce really inspires me to make important female characters and not just stick to the stereotypes that come out with the new fads.
So what books do you love?
I have on my desk normally the two major books that if people ask for recommendations, it’s what I’d give them. I have Wild Magic, which is actually missing because my kids are reading it. And I also have The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan. He’s also an author I admire. His world-building is considered the largest over all the genres for books. And a part of me is like, “That’s a challenge.” He actually has three storage rooms filled with maps, and the cultures, and what people would wear. He world-built to the extreme. And so I have his book and her book and they will usually sit on my writer desk as my inspiration for books.
Why turn writing into a full time job?
Because I can’t see myself doing anything else as my full-time job. I went to college for something that, while interesting, I can’t see myself doing forever. And I also don’t need to finish my degree for writing. And it really does call to me. That’s why it’s writing. My mind never shuts up about it. So if I can get someone to listen to me word vomit, like a good friend of mine did on a bus, then clearly I’m ok. And that is why I want to turn writing into a full-time job.
What is your greatest failure in writing so far?
I think my greatest failure with writing so far is that I know I can do more, but I procrastinate. I will put it off and off and off. Other than that, the only other one I can think of is the book that I literally titled ‘Steampunk’. It’s sitting behind me. It has three versions. My original alpha reader wanted to murder me. She stuck with me, though. I was reading some of it and it is god-awful. So we are thinking of collaborating and refinishing it, but that would definitely be one of my failures. It’s not even completed. I have the whole world and the whole series, but I made it 100 pages for the first draft, 80 pages for the second, and this last one 140-ish pages. It was one of those I went back to edit and started writing and nothing I wrote fit anymore. So that’s a failure.
What is the most difficult thing about writing?
I have too many ideas, which is a weird one. But they all become a shiny object. I could be writing my novel, and a sentence I wrote would trigger an idea of something else. And then I’m like “Ooh, if I pause this a moment, maybe I could write some of this down.” And so for me, that is the most difficult thing. I have so many ideas and so many things that want my front attention that it’s difficult to do writing at times.
What is the easiest thing about writing?
On the flip side of that, I guess, the easiest part is that I have too many ideas. The blank page isn’t really scary and I can just start going. It’s just a matter of which of the shiny ideas do I want to write. So that has made it easy for me. The sci-fi book I’m writing now came about because of another sci-fi/fantasy I was writing and I went “Well, what if science was the real reason for gods, and over time people forgot the science? What’s the backstory to that?” And I started a paragraph on a piece of paper that’s currently sitting in my closet. I wrote this little section out, and then I just didn’t stop writing. Now I’m at 400k words for this series alone. It’s going to be nine books.
Do you think your style is to vomit write, writing everything you can think of for a story and then narrow it down to what you think is important enough to include in a story? Or do you try to build it up?
So, originally I will have an idea. I will meet my characters, I will throw them into a situation, I will ask what will happen. And then I will make a larger back world. So if it’s a good story and will stick to me, then I’ll word vomit on a page, and then correct and write the story from there. We’ll have to do a whole episode on how we write.
What is the greatest achievement in writing so far?
It is the fact that in the last five years, I have managed maybe a little bit over half a million words. I’m not published yet, but I have written over half a million words. And that’s just my two main works. I didn’t count anything else that I’ve written by hand or on my computer. Just those two stories.
As a side note, to our listeners (and readers). We do have an updated chart of our word counts and other stats that are important to us.
Where do you see your writing career taking you, Cate?
So, this will sound a bit crazy, and a little ambitious. But recently I’ve been thinking I would love to be a full-time author… and I’d like to open a publishing house and be one of the top five. I would love to reach for as ambitious a goal as I can get, and I think reaching that high is a pretty high ambition.
What road of publishing would you like to travel?
Ironically, given what I just said, I don’t want to traditionally publish. I plan on self-publishing my books. My steampunk book has some unique twists that I’ve heard a lot of publishing houses will try to correct, especially with my two main characters. The book wouldn’t work without either of them. They both have their own storylines. It’s not very well-liked in publishing houses to have that. There’s also the fact that I don’t have a traditional love subplot, and that’s something they will sometimes change. And my steampunk book has two alternate endings, and I want to keep that so my readers can choose the one they like best. So I want to self-publish in order to keep those unique things for myself. And then the fact that I have a nine book series with the space opera. It’s difficult to get signed on for that many books right off the bat. I would, however, like to do traditional publishing and get an agent for going outside the United States. So in that sense, there is where I want to get them traditionally published so they can get them printed in different languages and out into different countries.
Very cool. Do you also want to travel and do a book tour? Where would you want to go?
Yes, I’d love that. New York City, of course. I’d like to go back to Italy. I think London, since London inspired a lot of my steampunk world. Even the name of the city.
What is one fun fact about you?
Ok. I am triple jointed in my elbows. It’s a very strange fact. When it hangs by side, the inside of my elbow should face my ribs, but mine hangs really far out.
And our final question: What does the statement Writer at Work mean to you?
When I think of writer at work, I think that I am a writer and I am working at it. When I’m writing my stories, I consider that a job. So for me, writer at work is that statement. And I also write when I’m at my job, so I write at work. But for me it definitely means that I am a writer, I’m taking writing seriously, and it is my work.
That’s good. I think that if you want to be taken seriously, you need to take yourself seriously.
Alright. We hope you guys enjoyed our podcast and find it helpful. For written articles and to keep up with us on social media, you can go to writeratworkpodcast.com and you can find us on Instagram, Twitter, and Patreon using the links below. Have a good one.